Daily Phuket #71: 15 August 2021 – Phuket Town’s Founding Father

This past week went by rather quickly as my continuing online classes are starting to feel like a routine. There were no major disasters save Monday’s first lesson; I had complained to an advisor that none of the students seemed to be paying the least bit of attention nor did they respond when I took attendance. At the end of the hour-long class, a parent called the school to say that my microphone did not seem to be working! I made a few adjustments and that problem went away.

The lion’s share of my days and evenings (not to mention, weekends) is spent either teaching, preparing for upcoming lessons or completing paperwork related to classwork. I do not remember ever having to deal with as much paperwork as I this during in-person teaching. I don’t mind doing the classes, the paperwork or any of the myriad of other tasks related to the job but I wish I would receive some advanced notice when additional tasks are added. I plan out my days and the last-minute decisions really take a toll. Also, it would be nice to be paid for all of the work I need to do at home in order to conduct successful online classes but, of course, I am dreaming in that regard.

The process is becoming a bit easier but I still have very little free time in order to spend much time on other pursuits. Earlier today, I made my first post to Philatelic Pursuits in more than a month but it was mostly about my lack of time to work on stamps. I certainly have not had the time to write about the hobby nor have I even cracked open an album since since sometime in early July. With the current continuation of high new cases each and every day, I believe that we will continue with the online classes until at least the end of the school term (30 September according to our contracts). This means that I probably will not have a lot of spare time until then.

I am still managing to read a bit every day. I use books as a way to get away from the computer for an hour or two at a time. I still love my new computer but it sure feels wonderful to shut it off from time to time!

Today, I forced myself outside despite ominous clouds. I really wanted to make a quick walk around the neighborhood and take some photos of the new (well, dedicated in February 2020) statue of our town’s founding father. I only found out about this statue a week ago which shows you how often I vary from the beaten path. It is literally a five-minute walk from my front door!

As I mentioned in my “Daily Phuket #69” on 7th August, the statue of Phraya Wichit Songkhram sits at the south-eastern corner of the Buddhist temple bearing his name. Wat Wichit Sangkharam was established by his orders circa 1850 when Phuket Town was first being developed. Today, it sits on the north side of Thanon Narisorn and east of Thanon Suthas. According to Colin Mackay’s A History of Phuket,

In 1849, the mayor of the new mining center of Phuket Town was Phra Phuket Kaew. He was succeeded in the 1850s by his son Phra Thut, who initially proved to be a good administrator and worked hard at marketing and attracting more and more Chinese to the island. Many he carried on his own steamship, the Phaya Phuket. Under Phra Thut, Phuket Town grew very rapidly so that by 1861 the king upgraded Phuket Town to the same status as Thalang. In recognition of his good works, in 1870 Phra Thut was given the title of Phaya Wichitsongkran and made governor of the island. He was of Indian decent, either from an old Chola family or from the prosperous local Afghan trading community who were based in Bangkhli, Phang Nga. These traders were known as ‘Gabu’ people by the locals in Phuket, a name said to be deprived from the Afghan city, Kabul.

Mackay, Colin. A History of Phuket and the Surrounding Region (Bangkok: White Lotus, 2013) p. 309

There is a bit more on Phraya Wichit Songkhram in the aforementioned book including how he made a great deal of money off of the Chinese coolies and his actions in the “Tax Farm Wars” of the 1870s that led to the “Angyee” Chinese riots of 1876. However, there is very little information about Phuket Town’s so-called founding father to be found on the Internet. The ruins of his mansion are about 12 kilometers north of Phuket Town and the location of the old post office (currently the Phuket Philatelic Museum) used to be the property of his son.

According to local newspaper reports in late 2019 and early 2020, the statue was sculpted by renowned Thai artist Sunti Pichetchaiyakul, who is best known for creating the sculpture of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where King Bhumibol was born. The statue was created from a photo of Phraya Wichit Songkhram taken in 1849.

Wat Wichit Sangkharam, Phuket Town, Thailand

After taking a few photos of the statue, I entered the grounds of the temple itself but as I did so I felt the first few drops of yet another rain shower. I decided to leave further exploration for another time. Before I got to the wat, I managed to take a few photos of other nearby sites. I will share a few of those throughout the upcoming week rather than “forcing” daily photos when I am really pressed for time. It will make for a nice break from my evening lesson planning and other school work.

Have a nice week, everybody.

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